Hawaii has amazing food. While my brain typically goes straight to the beach or sunshine when I have Hawaii on the mind — this last trip has me missing the food. Food is one of my favorite things about travel. On this trip, I was lucky to have a recent transplant & avid foodie as my host and bff. While we spent most of our time on the Windward side near Kailua, there were some great food finds on the North Shore and the Honolulu city area (referred to as “Town”) as well. Here’s what to eat in Hawaii when you visit the islands.
What to Eat in Hawaii (on Oahu):
1. Lilikoi everything!
Liliko’i is Hawaiian for passion fruit. After a while, it starts to feel like you could find something lilikoi flavored on any menu in Hawaii.
EAT: lilikoi pancakes at Moke’s Bread & Breakfast, 27 Hoolai St, Kailua HI 96734
2. Plantation iced tea
A simple mix of iced tea and pineapple juice. Super refreshing.
DRINK: order it on the flight over (if you’re on Hawaiian Airlines)
3. Hawaii food trucks
Oahu has their share of food trucks. Along with the ubiquitous shrimp trucks scattered around the island, there are plenty of places to get tacos or BBQ corn.
EAT: fish tacos at Camille’s on Wheels, Uluniu St, Kailua HI 96734 and Honolulu
4. Former food trucks
Ok this one isn’t really a category. Opal Thai used to be a food truck on the North Shore and has since opened a stand-alone restaurant. When the owner asks if they can order for you, you just do as they say. Fantastic.
EAT: Opal Thai, 66-460 Kamehameha Hwy, Haleiwa HI 96712
5. Fresh papaya
A papaya a day keeps the… rain away?
EAT: fresh papaya from anywhere you can find it
While a Portuguese-type donut, malasadas are also a popular Hawaiian treat. If you’ve been to Honolulu, you probably know about Leonard’s Bakery, but there are a few more places around the island to get your malasadas fix too.
EAT: call in an order for malasadas at Agnes Portuguese Bakeshop, 46 Ho’olai St, Kailua HI 96734
While you might be dreaming about drinking an alcoholic bevvy on the beach in Hawaii, smoothies are the best post-beach fix – especially if you’re spending a lot of your day being active in the water and/or sunshine.
DRINK: Ginger Ono smoothie (or the pictured gourmet smoothie bowl) at Lanikai Juice, 600 Kailua Rd, Kailua HI 96734 or new North Shore location
8. Hawaiian Shave ice
Ordering a shave ice is pretty synonymous with a North Shore visit. While there are shave ice stands all around the island, and the ‘recipe’ looks pretty standard, I’ve been told that it can be done wrong. Word to the wise. You can also get fancy shave ice.
EAT: shave ice at Matsumoto Shave Ice, 66-087 Kamehameha Hwy, Haleiwa HI 96712
9. Plate lunch
Unless you’re a plate lunch aficionado, you’ll probably order it once, deem it ok or good. And then move on to all the other amazing meals Hawaii has to offer. However, there are some superb plate lunch-style menu items at many restaurants! Plate lunch is one of the most authentic food items for what to eat in Hawaii.
EAT: tofu plate w/Okinawa sweet potatoes & bok choy slaw and mint hibiscus lemonade Sweet Home Waimanalo, 41-1025 Kalanianaole Hwy, Waimanalo HI 96795
10. farmers market
The Kailua Farmers Market happens on Thursday nights in a local parking lot. You can call it dinner and shopping, but get there early or all the tasty dinners will be sold out.
EAT: Lilikoi cheesecake OnoPops at Kailua Farmers Market, 609 Kailua Rd, Kailua HI 96734
11. Japanese department store food
If you’ve traveled in Japan, you already know the beauty that is the Japanese department store. Most department stories have a floor in the basement that is all food. And it’s not your typical food court. You’ll find delis, snack stands, sit-down restaurants, markets, desserts, beer gardens — you won’t go hungry and it’s a great way to save on food. So if you find yourself near the Ala Moana Shopping Center go take a look.
EAT: Osaka-style okonomiyaki at Shirokiya Department Store, 1450 Ala Moana Blvd, Honolulu HI 96841
12. farm stands
When you make the drive around Oahu, especially in the North Shore area, you’ll find plenty of farm stands, to get fruit, smoothies, and lots of treats.
Eat: fried banana bread with ice cream at Kahuku Farms, 56-800 Kamehameha Hwy, Kahuku HI 96731
You’re in Hawaii, surrounded by miles and miles of open water — it’s kind of a given that you’re going to find amazing fish and seafood here. :) This is what to eat in Hawaii! Butter fish, mahi, ahi… if you like fish, you’ll be happy with the options.
Eat: Thai red curry Mahi on green papaya salad & garlic mashed potatoes at Uahi Island Grill, 131 Hekili St, Kailua HI 96734
If you’re lucky to have a coconut tree in your backyard, karma says you should drink and eat all the coconut you can.
DRINK: young coconut
Poke is a raw fish “salad”. It’s usually an ahi tuna base, marinated in soy sauce and spices, and you can also get many styles like a spicier version or with different ingredients. The key here is fresh, fresh, fresh.
EAT: fresh poke from the deli at a grocery store, served with white rice
Have you been to Hawaii? What’s your favorite Hawaiian food?